Preventing & Troubleshooting Problems pt. IV: Living with Your Floor

Preventing & Troubleshooting Problems pt. IV: Living with Your Floor
This is not a laminate floor.

This is not a laminate floor.

We have a Care & Maintenance page that goes over routine cleaning. This page is about the things you can set up to prevent issues, and about handling unusual things that can come up. The product’s warranty is going to be the main source for your details on these. Where it says “Doing ____ will void the warranty,” you should find your specifics.


These days most laminate floors are guaranteed against color or image fading due to your lighting and even direct sunlight. It’s one of the benefits of some of the surface coatings. Since not all do, be sure to check your product’s warranty information before buying the floor, and if you choose one without this protection, then keep direct sunlight off the floor with strategically placed rugs, and by controlling window blinds. Usually this won’t be necessary though. This protection really is very common now.

Preventing Scratches

Two important things to know are that most warranties don’t cover scratches, and that, just like with water, ‘resistant’ and ‘proof’ mean different things. Most laminates are scratch resistant. In fact, laminate flooring usually has the most durable surface of any wood-look floors. Even with that, few, if any, are scratch proof, so reasonable measures must still be taken:

Floor Protection

Casters – You may find a requirement for the number of casters on a chair to disperse the pressure. You may see a requirement that they must all be rubber. Even plastic casters can dig through some hard surfaces or chip the edges of your boards. Surprisingly, these are very available online, and may even be found at a local home store.

Felt Protectors – These might need to be on all furniture legs both for moving the pieces from place to place and just from the settling and jiggling that happens as people sit down and then get back up.

Mats and Rugs – These not only protect from the unlikely sun damage, but also help catch outdoor dirt and debris from shoe bottoms. A particle of winter road salt stuck in the sole could act like a diamond cutter, at the very least dulling a glossy surface.

Preventing Chips and Dents

Please don’t feel insulted when we say, “Try not to drop heavy things,” but that’s really so much of it. With laminates, these would be more visible than they would with a solid hardwood, because the material under your top layer is probably not the same color or design. Most ‘chipping’ actually happens during installation. Dropped object damage should have little cracks around it, even a dent. This will often differentiate it from pre-installation damage. When broken, the top surface acts brittle.

Vacuums – You should only use these without the ‘beater bar’.

Proper Thickness & Durability (AC Ratings) – If your flooring is not rated for high traffic areas (AC3 or higher) and you install it there, you may see some chipping. Thin flooring could be fine in a bedroom, but still not the best for a busy hallway in the same house.

Preventing falls (as in you falling)

This is another benefit of the area rug, especially if you’ve gone with a glossy surface. Laminates can be slick in two ways. One happens when you walk in on wet shoes – another reason to wipe or take them off at the door. The other, more common, involves everything being dry, both the floor and your socks. It’s fun to slide on a floor. When you want to. Or when you’re not a big dog. If you find that a certain location is a hot spot for slipping children, pets or you, that’s a good place for an area rug with good traction on the bottom.

Preventing Water Damage

Water ‘resistance’ in a laminate floor means that it is designed to give you time to take care of a water issue, not that water will not harm the floor. Most water damage will be evidenced where planks join, as swelling along the edges. The causes are big spills left unattended and improper cleaning (‘wet’, specifically). Very localized damage of swelling between planks are usually the result of spills and pet accidents. Also look around kitchen appliances – the fridge, a dishwasher – something may be leaking or draining improperly. These can be very slow, so check carefully.

Damage over a large area generally indicates a pattern of too-wet cleaning. These issues may not show up immediately, so please don’t try it, check it, and then assume you’re fine to wet mop henceforth. While water damage may happen immediately, it can also take a year or more. Since this is almost always user-caused, water damage is almost never covered by laminate floor warranties, and once you have this kind of damage, you usually just have to replace the damaged planks (if not the whole floor).

Laminate Floor Cupping

Laminate Floor Cupping

Mold and Mildew – This will give you two mysteries to solve: the source of the fungus and the source of the moisture. First you need to take care of the mold, thoroughly, but after that you need to see what is bringing or holding the moisture and stop it from continuing.

Peaking – When expanding laminate planks have nowhere to go, they push against each other and bulge up. Assuming you have left the proper amount of room for expansion along the walls, moisture will usually be the cause of this, specifically humidity. Bathrooms, laundry rooms, and some kitchens and outer doorways can be places where this would occur.

Gapping – The opposite of peaking, here planks are pulling on each other because they are shrinking. Where peaking is humidity related, this one is usually temperature related – it’s gotten too cold in the room. Always keep your instruction’s recommended temperature thresholds in mind.

Cupping – Where peaking would give you flat planks with deformed edges, here each plank develops a full curve. Usually this happens on a concrete floor releasing too much moisture, even one with a moisture barrier. As we said in Preparation Before Installation, you must test and prepare any concrete before installing a natural floor covering over it.

Handling Major Damage

The infintely dreaded 'flooded basement'.

The infinitely dreaded 'flooded basement'.

Flooding – There is almost no case where anything from a burst water pipe to an all out flood of the basement will not permanently ruin any laminate flooring. The only advice we have here is to take proper care of your pipes. And if you have a room where flooding, or some buildup of moisture, is expected to happen at some point, even if that is over a few years’ time, then you should look into 100% waterproof flooring instead of laminates. You will still have to take care of the flood itself, but in that case your flooring could go right back down once all is dry.

Refinishing – Laminates cannot be sanded and refinished, as one does with a solid hardwood floor. In that case the look of the floor comes from what the material is from the top to the bottom of each board. With laminate you have a nice, solid structure with a protected image on the top. If that top layer gets worn or damaged, it must be replaced. Make sure to get a laminate with durability ratings of AC3 or AC4 if you have a high use area.

Previous parts in this series:

pt.1: Arrival and Inspection
pt.2: Preparation Before Installation
pt.3: Care During Installation

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David has written and made videos about flooring products and installation since 2011 at Floors To Your Home (.com), where he is also the PPC Manager, a Researcher, a Website & Marketing Strategy Team member, Videographer, Social Strategist, Photographer and all around Resource Jito. In my spare time I shoot and edit video, put together a podcast, explore film history, and mix music (as in ‘play with Beatles multi-tracks’). Connect with  W. David Lichty


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